LARGO — Hillsborough Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan was sentenced to a year of probation and 50 hours of community service Friday after pleading guilty to DUI.
Sheehan's appearance before Pinellas County Judge Patrick Caddell was not a surprise. Sheehan never denied that she drove drunk one night this summer after having drinks in Ybor City.
Hours after her July 5 arrest, the 53-year-old judge, who hears family law, divorce and probate cases in Plant City, issued a statement and told reporters she made a "horrible, poor choice."
Just before noon Friday, Sheehan walked into court with her lawyer, Stephen Romine, and formally admitted guilt.
A gaggle of journalists and TV cameras, who set up 45 minutes before the hearing started, were nearby. The hearing lasted six minutes.
Caddell asked Sheehan if she understood her plea.
"Absolutely," she answered.
Did she have any questions?
"None from me, sir," she said.
Caddell listed the punishments. In addition to the community service and probation, which will automatically terminate once Sheehan has completed her duties, the judge will have restricted driving privileges and must pay a fine of about $1,500.
"The same as thousands of others that have come before … and will probably follow," Caddell said. "Live and learn."
Sheehan already completed DUI school and substance abuse screening, Romine said.
"She's an excellent judge and this doesn't change that," he said. "She's a human like everybody else."
Sheehan, first elected to the bench in 2007, is known for having a soft spot for kids. She once donated $100,000 to build a children's shelter after surviving cancer. Hillsborough Circuit Chief Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. said he has no plans to discipline Sheehan outside of what she already faces. Other judges in similar circumstances have received the same type of treatment.
Sheehan declined to speak to reporters Friday. As she left the courtroom, the media scrambled to follow.
"These guys know there's a double homicide sentencing going on upstairs?" Caddell said.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.